Its Frickin’ Cold Out

I just overheard a video being replayed that Russell made this morning. It was for our friends in Nova Scotia. Clear as a bell his morning weather report rang out in the house. His four words seemed like a good title for this blog, as good as any. It was frickin cold out today. We had a job to do and it could not be delayed. We all had to find our strength to confront that cold.

It was weaning day. Thats the point in the year when we separate the calves from their Mamas. We do that in preparation to send the steer calves to the Auction Mart. (The heifer calves go onto feed and stay with us for another six weeks or so before being sold). The sale of the steers creates one of the big paydays of our year. It has been an expensive year. We are thankful that payday is almost here. At the same time, as much as we look forward to the sale our anxiety level is high. Many things could go wrong in the varied steps leading up to it.

As I sit writing this now Russ and Morgan have gone to roping lessons, I am alone in our house, it is warm at my desk and we are feeling grateful for an excellent day, despite that frickin cold. I am actually really feeling short on words. That is not my usual. I think the pictures we were able to manage to grab will tell the tale better than I could.

A screen shot of the weather report we found once we got the courage to actually look at the scary facts.
The guys were out and saddled up by 7:30. Russ, Morgan and Laurie brought the cows in by moonlight.

What follows are a series of selfies I took.

Fearing a fight to keep my glasses from getting frosted over I dug up my contact lenses. I have not worn them in two years I think. This is a weird picture. I was posing for my sister.
With the beginning layers of clothing in place.
Suited up and heading out. 7 layers on top, 3 on the bottom.
In the corral, I don’t remember what prompted this weirdness.
The sky was gorgeous, a result of several things. Laurie in position at the heifers gate.
Russ and Morgan did the sorting work in the alley. Steers went in the pen I was at, heifers went in Laurie’s pen and Ron ran the cow pen gate. At this point I was intent on grabbing some pictures and here Morgan was trying to get me to realize I had let a steer walk past my gate.
I was distracted because I just wanted to capture a picture of those frosty eyelashes.
The semi pulled in on time, Morgan and Ron helped Harold load the first load. Russ, Laurie and I kept working with the herd.
We were blessed by a gloriously sunny day, the wind stayed low while we worked. That made the cold much much easier to bear.
We started sorting at 8am, by 12:30 we were done and in for lunch. I had a meal in crockpots before we started sorting. That hot food hit the spot.
Good to see this hardworking cousin and friend getting to relax.
The conditions were a little easier the day this picture was taken. The same work getting done but so genteel by comparison. This was 2019.

The Last Round-up for 2022

Just in the nick of time all the cows are home. As I sit to start writing the words that go with the pictures I have received and assembled, the snow is flying, the wind is blowing, it is so wintery feeling. Down in the south east corner of the province we are the last to get hit with winters blow. We are thankful we had the time we did to get our fall work done up as much as possible. The biggest piece of that is getting our cows and their calves home from their fall and summer pastures.

Now that the cows are home we turn a definite corner. The work shifts towards ensuring the cows are fed and have access to water, and we start strategizing for the marketing part of our work. The season ahead holds more evening hours in the house, usually, we are definitely ready for that.

The last part of our cow chase work took place over this past Friday and Saturday. There are some nice pictures that tell the stories of the days.

Griffin shared this amazing sunrise picture from Friday with me. It was still and very cold as evidenced by the frost on the grass. We were bringing cows from “the Vanstone pasture”, east of Carnduff, to home pastures.
Griffin also shared this picture. Thats Teanna, Gina, Russ and Rhett. There was no school so it was a great day to invite the teens of our circle to help bring these cows home. Russ notes that he and Rhett had switched horses for a time, Rhett was trying out Russell’s saddle, which meant riding “Sundance”, who is notoriously grumpy and a challenge to ride. Not many would do what Rhett is doing in this picture.
Laurie couldn’t join the crew for the day but was available to help block the highway at the point where the herd crossed. He was able to catch this picture. What is it? In the very chilly morning temps Russ got craving a coffee. When it had warmed to about -6 he called ahead to Precision Ag, where we usually buy mineral, salt, fertilizer and pet food. Russ asked about customer perks and wondered if they could get five coffees to go. Sure enough, upon arrival, the place that is not a coffee shop had hot coffee in to go cups ready to pass out. Thats a happy memory.
Gina grabbed this picture from her perspective at the pasture gate. The first group of cows for the day was home and it was time to go home for lunch.
Emet got this picture of his dog and Coffee hanging out on a bale. Its cute!
After lunch the crew was off to bring another herd home. This time they headed to what we call “The Sheep Pasture”, I drove part of the crew and so was there when many things were getting done to be ready to go again. I grabbed this cute picture of Russ. That is the Viterra grain elevator in the background.
I like this action shot of Teanna.
Dani flashed a great smile when she looked up from dealing with her horse.
Sharon took this picture of Russ ready to roll. Thats Coffee, Knightwing and Bingo in the picture with him.
This is Griff ready to roll.
Sharon grabbed this picture of Teanna and Dani.
Gina took the passenger seat and let Dani drive home from the pasture at the end of the chase. Maddie is healing from an injury and didn’t get to chase, but got to be part of this time with Dani.

Russ wasn’t sure how it would go to juggle two different moves in the same day. Both herds moved more quickly then he thought, the crew did great and both lunch and supper were served an hour before Russ had estimated. I’ll be honest, as the cook, I struggled with the changing details, it was good in the long haul, but I didn’t find the flexing too easy to do.

Tenley sent me this amazing picture of the scene at sunrise on Saturday. The crew had left the yard about 6:45am and they headed to “the Boyes pasture” in the Glen Ewen valley. In contrast to the day before the skies were brooding, but at this point the air was quite still and it was warmer.
Griffin caught a moment when Morgan was being unusual. I am not sure what he was doing. Maybe I can ask him before I post this.
Sharon shared this moment where her grand-daughter Emma is ready to roll for the day. Emma has been on lots of Bayliss cow chases but this was the first for this year.
Griffin caught a cool sunrise picture, it also allowed me to see Emet’s dog in the saddle with him.
Jen saw this moment, the sun still rising and beautiful, Morgan ready to roll.
Becca sent this glimpse of the getting ready process. The sky is still intriguing.
Jen does excellent selfies, the sun on her face and Russ in the background makes this an especially nice one. I am guessing this was the last time the sun was seen on this day.
Becca brought her brother to his first cow chase in a long, long time. He was a good sport through what was a tough day because of the weather.
Sharon’s grand-daughter Hannah was back on the trail.
This is Bill in the centre with his granddaughters on either side of him. Sharon took this picture.
As the cows made the final mile before crossing the highway Becca took this picture.
Dwayne sent me this close up picture of the process of getting across the highway. In the background you can see the Mounties stopping traffic and keeping everyone safe.
I think Becca took this picture once across the highway and looking back at what was behind her.
Russ invited the Mountie on duty to pose for him, he obliged. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could direct the cows with hand signals like this? The RCMP are made aware of our plans, if it works into the demands of their day we get their help, but obviously other things take on greater urgency at times.
It was decided that quick progress meant a late lunch at home versus lunch on the trail was quite do-able and preferable given how windy and miserable it felt. However, a break for the cows was needed, the riders took advantage of the chance to stretch their legs. Sharon got this picture of Gary.
Sharon also got this picture of Bill making some adjustments.
Sharon took this picture right around the break.
Teanna and Dani grabbed a quick lie down in the ditch moment. Sharon was on the job with her camera.
Sharon has always been one to document our adventures, Becca got this shot just after Sharon finished a picture.
Jen and her daughter Emerson.
Jen’s selfie records a fashion moment, she and Griff have matching sunglasses, thanks to Griff wrestling an old bent out of shape pair into service.
Jen grabbed this moment when a good friendship was easy to see.
Jen and Dani….the queen of selfies strikes again.
Becca shared lots of pictures, including this selfie which reveals a nice spread of the cows behind her.
Becca captured her brother Dylan guarding an approach.

Following the break things got hard. Rain began and never quit until the ride was over. Tenley told Gina she has never been so cold on a Bayliss cow chase, which is saying quite a lot. The rain soaked through and challenged everyone. I got lunch set up for everyone in the house and left just as the crew was drawing near. I came across these cowboys coming home after getting the cows into the pasture. I was on my way into town to sing at a funeral. By the time I returned home everyone had eaten and most had gone home to find warm showers. It was hard to miss out on the meal, the chatter, and the words that might celebrate that the cows are all home, however the deceased was a friend of ours and I wanted to be there representing our family. Listening to the stories that came from lunch I sense that everyone was in survival mode and the celebratory mood would need to wait for another time.

The final quarter mile of the 2022 season.
Liz Griffin took this picture in the first half mile of the 2022 season. This captures the fact that we started with fog and ended with rain. There was no snow this on the trail this year, high wind at times but not like other years, we had some great sunny days.

Its November 7th, a few hours ago I reduced the table back down so it seats just six. Jill and I did up the last of the dishes lingering from the weekend. We watched two movies last night. The cows are home. We had a safe and successful season of moving them. The best thing, we had time with people we love so much, we met new people, we experienced teamwork and the sense that others have our back. I have been encouraged through the readers and comments with the blog. With a little rest in our bodies, and the sound of the wind just whistling around our house, our sense of gratitude rises to the surface in a very big way. We heard that one of our cowgirls cries for a half hour every year when everything is over. Russell says, “we know how she feels.”

Day 5 Cow Chase Season 2022

The crew from the ranch was on the trail again this weekend. It was a very memorable one. It was really only one day of chasing, Saturday, but it was a long day, as we mostly expected, and it held lots of moments that we will be talking about for a long time. I have had a ton of pictures shared with me, the story of the day will emerge through the pictures.

Our work for the weekend began on Friday when Russ, Gina, Laurie and Morgan went to check pastures. They were assessing animal health and pasture conditions. Russ was deciding if we needed to bring a herd home on Sunday but decided that the herd could stay for one more week in the pasture, there is enough grass.

The day started early, the crew was ready to leave the yard by 6:25am. Some of my family from Saskatoon were here for the weekend which made the weekend extra exciting for me. My brother in law Gary took this picture of the morning darkness.

Sharon offered this glimpse of the cows in the pasture, before departure.
Before departure, it was a bit nippy in the morning, bundled up to ride are Kaitlyn, Dani and Dwayne. Sharon took the photo.
Cowgirl Kaitlyn ready to go. A pic shared by Sharon.
The fabulous smile of Tenley. Sharon shared this picture.
Sharon grabbed this early morning photo of Jesse.
Gina and Meadow at the gate. Another Sharon picture.
Seth, who is my nephew, sent this cool picture, about 3/4 mile down the trail. They were able to go cross country at this point. The cross country sections of the trail really help, to cut down the distances and make less corners neccesary.

During the day there were seven calves that needed to be caught and put in a trailer to be transported home. There were two reasons for this. As soon as we hit the trail it was discovered that we had some sick calves. Russ figures the snow and rain of earlier in the week was the reason that four of the calves had symptoms of pneumonia. We needed to rope them, push/drag/wrestle them into the trailer and then treat them. Russ had brought a small kit with usual medicines in it, just in case. This came in really handy. The next pictures show some of this action.

Gary S (my brother in law) (we also had a Gary M) sent this picture. Thats Morgan and Meadow working to rope this calf. I don’t know where this roping fell into the order of things. There were four in total that were discovered to be sick.
Teanna sent this great picture of success with roping. Meadow caught the head, Morgan the feet, Russ is with it giving it two needles full of Nuflor, Jim is standing by, Bingo is on alert and Ron is ready to get the trailer door open. (That Nuflor will save their lives and return them to health, their suffering is minimized this way. One of the sick calves was already dead when they got to the pasture. Nuflor in time would have prevented that. Supporting antibiotic free beef has hard consequences for the animals. In this highly regulatred industry that Nuflor will be gone long before they enter the foodchain, any further antibiotics given require a clearly prescribed waiting period before they go for butcher.)
Sharon sent me this picture of Gary S doing his part to get a roped calf into the trailer. The calves were large and the effort very significant. Knightwing is hopefully helping with moral support at this point.
Sharon sent this pic of Russ starting to deal with a roped calf.
Sharon sent this picture of Russ pushing and Meadow securing a calf.
Gary took this picture while riding our mule Dick. Thats Emet on the left and Stephanie on the right. We were on the road.
Russ grabbed this picture of Bailey riding Wrangle. Bailey was one of three riders who had never experienced the BAR MW trail before. Quite an introduction with the day that it was.
Meanwhile back at the ranch…..my cousin had come for the weekend to give me a hand with cooking. We were working away at creating taco in a bag. Lisa prepared a well appreciated amount of fried onions. I asked her to prep three peppers, it wasn’t enough. We fed 33 people. I wasn’t always thinking straight with the prep. I am so grateful for her help. Our Grandmas were sisters.
The extra action in the morning had meant delays and it was a late lunch break. Here is the lunch crew. Jill dressed up to celebrate halloween. Sharon took our picture.
The cows were moving slow, lunch was late, some of our usual riders were not able to be with us, (I really missed them), many riders were feeling a bit of pain, the feeling in the air at lunch was subdued, except…….Jill. Her costume brought so many smiles at different points.
I grabbed this extremely goofy moment. It was a situation which began when Gina phoned me in the morning, “Mom, can you bring a calf bottle to lunch, I want to see if Moo would be interested in it.” Moo is our ox who once was a bottle fed calf and then Morgan’s 4H steer. He is now 2200 lbs plus and we use him to guide the herds home. Jill put a bit of water in it and with hope set off to offer it to Moo. I have no idea what was in his head as he saw Jill. Lets just say he had very little interest in the bottle. Was his effort to get away from her a result of her weird outfit? Not sure. Thats Moo with the white head patch just off to Jill’s right and looking at her.
Moo and Morgan in 2015. They have both grown. In the days when a bottle meant everything to Moo.
After lunch Seth was done with his job of moving trucks and he got in the saddle and on the mule he was sharing with his Dad. Here is Seth ready to roll.
After lunch Bill got back on his horse and I just had to grab this picture before he rode away. I had the privilege of conducting Bill’s wedding this past summer. He married my singing partner’s sister Caley. Bill and Russell met at the wedding and hit it off. The plan to get Bill on the trail was hatched then. Russell really loved having him along. He was VERY complimentary of my cooking which I really appreciated.
On the trail after lunch, Seth got this picture.
Gary S gave me this picture of the head guy, he looks fairly relaxed at this point.
Gary sent this picture of my niece Brodie (on Smoky) and her friend Clare on our red mule Jane (who Russ tells me has been herding cows since 1997). We were really happy to have Brodie back on the trail and to introduce Clare to trail life. She was a great sport.
Gina, Brodie and Clare on the trail, as seen by Gary S.
Gary S sent me this picture and he captioned it “The Bayliss Crew” and I feel that title so deeply. Russ, Morgan, Gina, cousin Laurie, Bingo and Coffee are all there. They were all working their butts off, and with a big herd like this, one or two of these crew are usually at the front, which could be as much as a mile away, Russ likes to stay at the back. This was a rare moment. They are joined in this picture by one of the crew from the White Ranch, thats Jordanna furthest to the right.
Things got pretty serious in the afternoon when three of our calves broke into the neighbors pasture. I am not totally clear of how everything went down but the bottom line is that Sherry our neighbor got nominated for neighbor of the year. She was gracious and understanding and helpful when some of our crew went into her pasture to rope those calves and get them out of her herd of yearlings and into the trailer. Morgan and Meadow were on roping duty again. This picture features Sherry in the back and Sharon looking uber relaxed on the right.
Gary S grabbed this moment on the trail. The bright sun was a gift.
Another nomination …..Russell nominated Gina for cowgirl of the day. I said, “Russ, she got it last time.” He said, “you should see that girl Kathy, her foot still isn’t right but she won’t stop, she was in charge of the whole operation when I was off dealing with those calves, she isn’t going to be here much longer, I am nominating her.” Gina sent me this picture because she spotted our cow named “Kathy” and got this selfie with Kathy grazing in the background.
Close to the end of the day Gina phoned me and said, “I have a nomination for cowboy of the day.” It was this crew member, Dwayne Henderson, she had some significant help from him with a problem earlier in the day and she just observed how calm and focused he was all day, and it was a long day. It was an epic day. Thats six times using day in one caption. It was epic. Laurie timed just over ten hours on the trail.
Russ took this fine picture of Morgan. The evening sun is nice.
Gina sent me this picture as her picture of the day. Its her Uncle Gary and she is so happy to have shared a day on the trail with him. He spent most of the day in the saddle and did incredibly.
Dani sent this picture in for her picture of the day. What a moment. Gina and Teanna approached the last mile of the chase, the ranch in sight, holding hands because their hands were cold and the truck with their gloves was nowhere in sight. The picture also allows mention of a nomination that Becca made, she texted me, “I would like to nominate Gina for the most fabulously dressed cowgirl today! Her shirt added flare to her cowgirl attire!” Her school friends will recognize it as her favorite shirt for dance and one she wore every Thursday for Jazz class.
Jill took this picture back at the ranch during supper hour. Bingo chilled with the crew.
Russ took this shot of Morgan and Knightwing……a significant amount of weariness!
Jill found a way to include Buster in the cow chase blog,.
Gina shared this pic of after supper visiting, most cowboys gone home, but not Bill, the furthest drive and the most endurance. He headed home to Brandon shortly after this. I love how Seth is sitting on Russell’s knee and laughing at something with Bill who you can hardly see.
This was earlier today. The cows home and grazing in the west pasture. Brodie took this with her drone. She makes awesome calendars with her drone photo shots from all over the Saskatoon and north area. I can get you one.
Russ, Morgan and Laurie helped our friends move their yearlings and cows this morning, whipped home for a late lunch with us and then we sent all our company back north. Gary took this.
Gary took this picture of our crew earlier today.

Now…….our cowgirl Becca took many great photos but a technological challenge meant that I just got them. I am tired. I can’t go back and tuck them in. So here is a glimpse of the day thru Becca’s lense and only just a tiny bit of captioning because you know almost everything already by this point anyways.

This picture features Emet in the foreground working the back of the herd. We are glad to see this picture, giving us the chance to say that his work on the crew has developed quickly this year. Gina tells me that twice yesterday she said to herself, “thank goodness for Emet.” Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is everything.

These are Becca’s kids Peyton and Matthew. They were great crew members and super cute. Their personalities made for memorable conversations, they really made us smile.

Cow Chase ’22 – Day 1 – Pictures of the Day

A big ranching Day here. We moved 140 cow calf pairs about 18 miles, from their summer to autumn pasture. We had 19 riders and the support team. It was a seamless work day, nice when that happens.

I invited the riders to send me their pic of the day. I got several in some cases. I am posting them all with minimal captions. The alarm went off at 4:25am so the pillow is looking very inviting!

Thanks to a great crew of cowboys and cowgirls!

Russell’s pic of the day of Liz Griffin, sporting a hoodie we got her. We were happy to have her back to record a few of our 2022 moments.
Liz’s picture of the day of Russell, this was a sneak peek she posted.
Gina’s pic of the day.
Shared by Sharon.
A Sharon Hubbard pic of Gina.
Sharon’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Sharon, she has this jacket, identical to our family ones, because we can’t do these days without her. She drives the truck and trailer all the way.
Russell’s pic of David
Russell’s pic of Laurie and our friend Maja, a Norwegian agricultural worker in our area.
Sharon’s pic of Teanna
Sharon’s pic of a great smile on Pat.
Pat, Sharon and Morgan
Rhett and Morgan
Sharon’s picture…is there a rider or not?
Sharon’s capture of a moment to get things adjusted. 3 of the 5 dogs on the trail are seen here.
Sharon at the wheel.
Teanna’s pic of the day. She and Patrick.
Gina’s pic of Jenn and Patrick.
Jill’s pic of her Dad during lunch.
Jill’s record of a little visitor we didn’t disturb.
Maja’s pic of the overall lunch scene.
My pic of Sharon getting out of the wind.
My pic of Russ holding the last bite of the dessert he determined was the best of the day. Their was a semi final round after his first try of everything. This was a new recipe for me, Faye Simpson’s Cornflake Cookies. Num.
I took this action shot of Morgan and Gina.
My pic of Morgan’s height serving him well.
My pic of some of my lunchtime customers getting a break.
Jill sent this pic from the truck she was driving as she helped get vehicles moved from the start of the move to the pasture where they were headed.
My pic at days end….All done and back at the house for supper.
Jill sent me this pic of the action in the basement after supper. There was lots of noise.
Jen grabbed this bonus picture yesterday while Gina was pressure washing the horse trailer in prep for today.

Day 56 – Calving Season 2022 – On Location

If you will indulge me I am going to play pretend for a moment or two.  I am in this moment an on location reporter.  “This is Kathy Kyle coming to you from the Cow Dog Lounge at the Bar MW Ranch.”

Laurie had this sign made for us and showed up with it this week. We mounted it with baler twine (a ranchers 2nd best friend after duct tape). The name Laurie came up with is perfect, our dog Knightwing frequently naps in her spot on the couch as in this picture.

While I lounge on a sectional couch in the pole shed our team is right beside me putting a small herd through the chute. 

It is raining outside, it is comfortable (only one layer of clothing is about perfect), the smell of a branding iron lingers in the air.   The fact that I am blogging is a result of the fact that once again our team has been added to by friends.  Carvell is doing my job and I am here with my laptop, close enough to feel connected to the action but free to do one of the things I love, write.

Carvell is in the spot where I often stand, he is ensuring the calf is secured and stays in place while receiving its various treatments. At home Carvell works in the computer programming field, there is no denying that this man has become a cowboy too.

It has been many days since I felt free to linger on the blog.  Here is a quick check-in about how things are going.  The summary word is “well.”  Calving has not been very dramatic since our big blizzards.  Most cows are doing what they are supposed to do.  Russ has been able to manage things so that the troubles that do arise get worked out.  With seven sets of twins born we have been able to offset some of the inevitable losses that happen.   While April was absolutely abuzz with the births happening amid whatever weather was being dished up, it seems May has been consumed by practical jobs that need to happen.    By the end of today we will have about 70% of our cow calf pairs through the chute (tagged, immunized, castrated, branded, etc.) and at their summer pastures.  That is a super big deal.  We had the vet team here yesterday to semen test our bulls.   Our bulls came through winter okay, one failed his test (our bull named Cheeseball), a few need retesting, but overall, we are set for the breeding season.  Two days of the last week have seen parts of our ranch team helping different neighbors with their spring work.  That is important to us.  But the really big deal in our hearts right now is that our ranch family grew in number and depth this week. 

Last Saturday we had a family from Halifax, Nova Scotia pull into our driveway.  They had spent their day getting to the Regina airport and then to the ranch.  We had never laid eyes on each other before.  However, due to the wonder of Facebook and Messenger and this blog, we all had a darn good sense of each other.  So it was that our family looked forward to their visit, despite the fact that strictly speaking we were entertaining strangers. 

We feel very lucky.  Everything we sensed through our social media interactions is true.   Carvell, Lynette and their daughter Izzy were very easily folded into the work and the rhythms of our daily life and have brought much joy our way not to mention an incredible amount of help with getting our spring work done. 

At one point this week Russell offered to share from his Hawaiian shirt collection, something he loves and he got from our friend David Powell. Symbolic of how fun loving our friends are, they accepted Russell’s invitation/challenge and went to the neighbors looking like this!
This is Lynette. When she is at home she is a manager with Workmans Comp, a few years ago she joined her family for riding lessons. She is now a fully capable ranch cowgirl, and that has meant being adventurous with many different jobs. Her job today is tame, she is filling taggers and needles. A nice contrast to Thursday morning when she wowed me as she headed out to help move our herd of bulls down the road.
This is Izzy, she is a grade 8 student at home and the one who urged her parents into learning to ride. I got this picture of her as the computer girl this morning while we were working with the cows. It seems there is no job Izzy isn’t willing to try, she also had incredible stamina, she did early checks with Russ every day.
A fun picture of Jill from the day.
Morgan branding a calf. This is a hard part of our spring work that I often try to say as little about as I can. Here is the deal. We would never impose a brand on our calves if there wasn’t a real risk of theft of our calves. It has happened before. I see this as a vivid example of how sin creates suffering. We take comfort from the fact that the calves are reunited with their Moms right after they are done, the Mom’s feed them and we know this helps the calves begin to settle and heal.
Our man Ron working with the dogs to move the calves into the tub and alleyway.

For me personally a visit like we have had has many dimensions.  Part of it is struggle, only because when people dwell among you for a stretch they get to see you, really see you.  The first few days of the visit seemed chaotic on the ranch.  I was embarrassed at what we were asking our company to go through.  Then we realized they were very tough and definitely up for the challenge.  I felt embarassed by how much I do for my kids that they can do for themselves. Lynette assured me she saw what was at play. I settled down and the feeling of needing to hide a few things passed.

The other thing is that I have found with more hands on deck with ranch work I have been freed to focus on things that I need to do and want to do well as we shared our days.  So, I have been baking a lot, taking good care of my kitchen, getting caught up on laundry and paperwork.  For me, one of the ultimate gifts I can be given in life is being uninterrupted.  Whether that is when I am speaking or getting things done.  Ranch life does not lend itself to being uninterrupted.  Interruption is the name of the game.  I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this impacts my spirit both for good and not.  The freedom to focus in my kitchen was a gift that came from hosting visitors with such a desire to learn, see and work and make sure I felt appreciated for the food I created.

Another great thing about this time shared with new friends is that we have been spreading the goodness around.   Laurie and Dawson were with us a couple times this week and therefore got to meet the Fentons.  It made me very happy. This feeling of happiness made me realize we are really proud of all the people we are sharing our days with and its great to introduce them to one another.  This happened again when the Fentons helped us help our neighbors.  This just means more and more layers of connection and knowing.  When we see these neighbors in the days ahead we might find ourselves talking about how those Fentons are doing and we will all care about who we are talking about.  Another layer of making connections arose from the fact that Morgan has been training a Gilliland family horse. They came riding with us on Wednesday to use the horse and see Morgan’s progress. They met the Fentons. Earlier that day Russ and I had attended the funeral of an amazing woman who is part of our ranch family.  We have rented her pasture for the entirety of Russell’s life.  To honor her we spent the evening of her funeral day riding her beautiful river pasture and we gave thanks for her life as we prayed before enjoying a tailgate picnic supper.   The world feels more stable and secure when the ties that bind us weave in multiple layers. 

That rainbow in the background felt meaningful as we enjoyed Donna’s pasture.
This ride for Donna was a big deal. I was on a horse, but it was actually a mule, for the first time in more than two years.
Jill was one of the riders as well. She too has been avoiding the saddle. We both had a really good ride. Jill even took part in the race.
The race.

I think there are about five calves left to go through the chute, its getting quiet here in the pole shed, the team seems to be doing well and keeping their spirits up.   I don’t know if its just me, but I know I am avoiding the thought that we have to say good-bye tomorrow.  Carvell, Lynette and Izzy feel like family and its hard to think that four and almost five provinces are going to soon separate us.   I am always aware of my losses.  Its just a big part of my story.  I do well to remember that all the hard good-byes can be softened by the truth that there are many wonderful people in the world and it’s a gift when they come your way. We have been blessed.

Day 43 – Calving Season 2022 – Stealing a Coffee Break

I am giving myself 25 minutes to create this blog. What gets done gets done and then I hit publish.

Here at the ranch we are doing what we always do at this point in May and thats put herds of cows and calves through the working chute. This allows us to give vitamins, vaccines, tag the calves, replace lost tags on the cows and castrate the bull calves. Its a big chunk of work and it takes a crew. I should be out there but I am not because Dawson was able to come today and do my job. That is a lifesaver today in particular, I have a funeral to conduct tomorrow, a graduation to attend later today and tags to make. Not to mention feeding this crew. You might think, “why are you writing a blog?” I just have to. I have the fever to. But there is a time limit set.

Okay….maybe I have the fever because last night a friend we had not seen in a long time came for tea. As she stepped in the door she said, “I came because I just want to encourage you.” How interesting we humans are, how quickly old tapes and things rise to the surface, because you know what rose up in me when I heard that? I caught myself thinking, “oh great, someone is here to tell me what I need to do better at.” That wasn’t at all what our friend was here to share. However, I have had impacting experiences being told things that start with the words, “I just want to encourage you…….”, followed by some message to do things differently, worry less, have more faith, exercise more, …..some message that essentially said, “you are not enough.” But that is not what I heard last night, last night I heard, “your blog makes a difference, I want to encourage you to keep it up” and there was a bit more than that. But you get the drift. So, fuelled up I am here to share about this day.

There is so much stirring within.

I am proud of our crew. We had Morgan’s friend Griff with us yesterday and we got 80 pairs handled at the chute. I was not needed hands on, we had such great help, so I was able to cook and make tags and do the essentials in the house.

I am proud of Gina. More about that in the pictures.

I am sad. The details of this past week have stirred grief.

I am angry. I am angry at Covid. Tomorrow I do the first funeral I have had to do for a person who died of Covid. Two of my sisters were diagnosed with it this week. I saw them last weekend. So we have been wearing masks and testing daily. I believe I missed it this time.

I am hyper. I made the best pot of coffee this morning. It was nuclear fuel in my body. Russ just called me to tell me a story from the chute. We had a cow that needed to be chased down, details elude me. Anyways, the story was a bit epic, a should to shoulder race which Russ won and with great delight he told me, “when I looked at her tag Kathy, you know who she was?!? Streak! Kathy, I outran the streak!!!” I was suitably impressed! We agreed that coffee had weaved magic in us.

Some pictures to share!

I stepped out the door this morning to see a herd of cows and calves being moved through the yard. This still amuses me. I ran back to get my camera. Notice the mud encased Expedition. There is unreal puddle action on our roads.

I made some cheese and bacon roll-ups for a snack after the cows and calves were sorted from each other. It amused me to see how dirty Morgan’s hands were as he ate. I see this as a personal strength not weakness in Morgan. We do encourage handwashing, but, when it isn’t possible….well…….dirty hands are part of a working life and he is not too needful of perfection.
This is me and my kids during coffee break this morning. I am pointing to my shirt because it says, “Gina’s Mom”…it was a gift about 10 years ago. Gina graduates later today, we will be able to watch via a livestream at the Connelly’s. However it makes me sad to miss it. Really sad. We didn’t get to share in a ceremony for her high school grad in 2020. Its hard to miss this too. But we couldn’t be in Victoria two weekends in a row and the show weekend was more important. So……she is on our minds. And….we gotta get our work done so we can get to the livestream on time.

There was an awards ceremony yesterday. Gina’s stage combat mentor presented her with this award on behalf of the college. His words and manner touched her so much and we were so thrilled for her. The fine print says, “awarded to a student who has shown outstanding achievement in Musical Theatre.”

The college released this photo on instagram yesterday. This was an amazing number from Shrek where Gina tap danced with 12 rats. This was the number that brought me to tears. Why? Gina was having so much fun.

Jill in the foreground making a cow replacement tag, Laurie in the back. Part of the team this morning.

Not great team pictures but a little glimpse of the scene at the ranch today.

Calving is perking along, a pretty normal set of days and events are the reality right now. This is good timing. I hope your weekend is going the way you need it to. Blessings to you.

Day 30 – Calving Season 2022 – Its all about Babies

We have an interesting set of birth announcements to share tonight. It was quite a day and the way some details came together has us smiling.

It was exciting for Russ to check the heifers this morning and learn that “Jill” had her calf early on, she was very successful.

After school Jill took a selfie with the calf that Jill the heifer birthed this morning.

Yesterday morning the check of the cows revealed that “Morgan” had calved and all was well. Later this morning Russ reported that “CCPA” had calved. Thats a cow we named in honor of Gina’s school. That cow and calf seem to be doing well. By mid afternoon the big news of the day was in…..Kathy had calved and birthed twins! How odd that so many of our cows named after immediate family all did their work in such a short time.

Through a crack in the door I was able to get a glimpse of Russell luring Kathy and one of her twins into the trailer. He was working to get them home so that he can do good supervision and make sure both calves are getting cared for. That is not a given.
Witness the change in weather! Less clothes required! A short video that has Morgan delivering Kathy’s other calf to the trailer. It was not doing as well as the first and was found at a bit of a distance form Kathy.

All of this follows on the heels of the birth video that Jill captured last week, Georgie our heifer birthing her first calf. Georgie was my Mom’s name.

Warning: This is a birth video. It is wondrous but it is also too much for some people. This is Georgie birthing her calf, which has not yet been given a name. Jill is the photographer and narrator.

Another birth story from today is that our cow named “Flash” calved this morning and gave us twins. Two sets of twins in one day is quite something for us. The funny thing is that yesterday Jill spotted a child’s “Flash” superhero tshirt at the church clothing sale. She bought it for Coffee dog to wear. She has the same shirt. So this morning Coffee was running around the ranch in her Flash t shirt and Flash the cow gave us twins. A fun part of the day.

A video: This is Coffee in her t shirt walking through the heifers with Russell this morning. Coffee really lives up to the name “Flash”, she can really go fast. Russ is a good tour guide.

To top it all off, this morning Russ discovered that our cow “Sunflower” had a calf coming backwards. I had to be in town early on and could offer no assistance. Morg and Jill were in school. Ron was elsewhere. Russ was on his own. He got that cow to the working chute in the calving pasture and was able to deliver what was a huge calf, safely. It is very difficult to pull a backwards facing calf. Russ is currently describing the series of events that allowed this safe delivery to happen. It was epic and I am too tired to describe every step for you. How about I just brag for a second? My husband is one heck of a cattle man.

Lots of our cows named after my friends calved also in the last few days, it really has been a time for smiling at the birth announcement texts that come. Tanya, Sharon, Beth, Ali, Sandy, Peter, Marion, Trisha, Diane and Kristen have all given us calves in these days.

After so much struggle in the posts of last week, and much of my work time in the last 24 hours spent paying bills (not my interest or comfort zone) it is great to have these births to smile about!

Day 29 – Calving Season 2022 – Looking Back

Its Sunday morning and I’m hoping to get this all put together before Church. Russ and Morgan are out doing the morning check of the herd. We can’t help but compare how it is this morning to last Sunday when the storm had wreaked the worst of its havoc and we were breathlessly trying to figure out how bad things were. This morning there is some wind, the sky is cloudless, the birds are singing. Russ called to tell me, “do you know that things are just Ducky in the calving pasture?” I was a bit dense at the time, hardly awake, so I didn’t catch on that he was telling me that our cow named “Ducky” had calved. He is not yet done the morning check so this number could grow but in the last 48 hours we have had 52 calves (including a set of twins). Special cows that calved this weekend include Morgan, Tanya, Marion, Fudge and Cowabunga). We are deeply grateful that this is not how it was last weekend. This is as intense as it will get for us.

Earlier in the week, in a quiet few hours at the cottage, while keeping the home fires burning there I got started on this post. It is a glimpse of some of what we saw and experienced calving during a storm and power outage. The pictures span from Saturday until Tuesday and are different than the immediate storm update posts that were offered Saturday and Sunday. There is another couple of stories to tell yet. But this is plenty long.

    There has been so much calf action, bottles fed, rubs done, mercy, I have no idea who this calf was now.  However it was a quick warm up while the crew ate lunch on Saturday, Jill gave it a bit of milk or colostrum and then it was back to the barn to its Mama.  Jill carried it, we giggled a lot because it felt like a bit of a circus as it would start to slip and I did what I could to make it right.
    Saturday –   I took Coffee dog for a walk about 6pm.  When the stakes are high with the work getting done Coffee gets left behind because she is just not a good listener yet.  So….a walk was in order.  This was the view of our place, from the west, it doesn’t look that bad does it?   Within the hour 7 power poles snapped in half 4 miles south of us.  Not a quick fix.
When Coffee and I came across Ron outside he told us he was just going fencing.  This struck us both funny, its not a typical blizzard job.  The building snow in the calving yard was damaging fence and making it possible for cows to get over it. 
Having endured a morning of heavy rain and getting soaked through, then an afternoon with sleet that turned to snow, having done everything they could, including plug in the truck in the hope the power would return by morning, these guys were calling it a day.
Russ stopped me and asked me to take a picture of this new jeep sticker, he brushed the snow away.  A little mid blizzard humor.  Russ is a fan of Sasquatch stuff.
     Saturday night we set up and played a new game while eating cheese ball, crackers and chips for supper.  I had pizza dough rolled out and bun dough ready to shape when the power went out.  Clearly I was way too optimistic.  Russell was so cold and so tired, this game was an act of love, Morgan could hardly wait to try out the game he found in the easter egg hunt.  It was meant for Christmas but was in a box in the office that Morgan peeked into.  Shute. 
The snow on our bathroom window when we went to bed Saturday night. How is a person supposed to sleep picturing this coating your animals and they were wet to start off with?
     When Russ and I got up Sunday morning we wondered how we would handle the sheer number of calves likely to need a warm up in the cottage.  We were picturing six or more calves strewn about.  In the end there was only one in that day.  It took a long time to gather its strength and needed a lot of encouragement, however, when it came time for a bottle it happily gulped back the milk I made so I made more.  Russ thinks it has fluid on its lungs, back with its Mom it has not thrived, despite the meds he gave it, he has decided to leave things to their course.  Now four days later, at the time of posting this the calf, whom we called “Cottage”, is doing alright.
Last summer we added an outhouse to our cowboy cottage set-up.  I was non-committal about the importance of this.  Let me say how thankful I am for it and Russell, “you were dead right!”  Next on the list….a big generator for the ranch.
Just as I was getting in the truck on Monday morning to go to the pasture and get the fire going in the cottage Russ asked me to come help him, we had a heifer calving and its calf was big, it needed to be pulled.  Russ did not expect to find the calf alive but as its head emerged indeed it was breathing.  As Russ started to work on the calf the Mom prolapsed.  After a swear Russell’s first words to me were “call Marcel” and then he pushed that prolapse in as much as he could and using his arm kept the prolapse mostly within the cow.  He remained that way until Marcel got there, which was as fast as he could, but it took a bit of course.  The strain caused numbness and pain for Russ that lingered through the day.  He is very tough.
   When Marcel took over Russ went to the house to take off his goopy clothes.  By this point Morgan was on the scene and he became Marcel’s assistant.  The heifer named “Éclair” had got up just a minute before Marcel walked in and we used the rope I had placed on her like a halter to get her snubbed up to the side wall.  She settled down there and was not willing to move again.  In this less than ideal set-up Marcel persevered and got the surgery done that kept the heifer alive.  He needed Morgan to position himself in a certain spot and with enough force to keep the heifer positioned well enough for the procedure.  When it was done I overheard Marcel speaking to Morgan with all the coaching instinct that lives within him.  He is Morgan’s volleyball coach, his instinct to be a coach is something I love experiencing.  I have seen it many many times.  Here I overheard him praising Morgan for the way he handled his job.  He gave quite particular feedback and it warmed my heart.
Ron and I were in charge of anchoring the rope that snubbed the heifer to the wall.  I stepped away for a minute and got the chance to grab a picture of Ron poised to tighten that rope at the least movement.
Russ – back with dry and clean clothes on, after all he had been through with this cow I caught him petting it, it touched me.
   This is my sister and brother in law.  Over the course of the storm they sent me three pictures of them doing their weekend with one of our Bar MW mugs in hand.  It was such a vivid sign that they were thinking of us and holding us close.  I learned something from this which I will say more about another day maybe.  In the meantime I was very pleased with myself when I texted back a play on words, their last name is Sollid, and I said, “thanks for the Sollid-arity!”  I meant it. 
Just a nice moment.  This calf needed a bottle when Russ was not able to locate its mother.  The mothering up process was definitely impacted by the storm. 
As a result of a really cold night the 2nd night of outage we had a water line freeze to the cows watering bowls and it was not possible to get it thawed.  So we ran hose and put a trough in and Jill spent hours yesterday afternoon supervising the filling of the trough.  From that point she got many pictures. 
Something very beautiful happened that Jill documented for our family.  We have a heifer (a female cow who has never had a calf, yet) that we named Georgie.  That is my Mom’s name.  The previous cows we had named Georgie died.  We love having a cow named Georgie in the herd so we assigned a heifer the name.  While Jill was doing her water job yesterday Georgie began to calf.  Jill caught the whole thing on video which I will share when data service is stronger.  It is fascinating I think.  The beauty here is that the birth went well, Georgie proved to be a great Mom and her calf is a little mini me.  They are just gorgeous together.
One of our cowgirls and her daughter delivered hot casseroles to us for supper Monday night.  This was really appreciated.  The message that came with it touched our hearts so much.  There was a big one for us and a little one I could drop over at Ron’s house.  We all needed that warm food. They brought with them food from one of their relatives, who doesn’t know us, but once cattle ranched, and in sympathy sent us what we needed for a lunch we could reheat on the wood stove the next day. Great biscuits were part of that. How generous and kind.
Grandma Shirley hosted us for tea, cookies, device charging and showers late on Monday.  It felt so good.
I snuck over to Shirley’s in the late afternoon to get things started charging and have my first cup of tea and shower.  Russ and Morgan went in after supper.  Therefore here I am at supper already feeling fresh and flowy. 
Steaming coffee is a wonderful sight. We had filled our thermoses with boiling water at Shirley’s the night before and didn’t need to wait for the stove to heat water.
   On Tuesday morning Russ and I were alone in the cowboy cottage for the first time since the storm started.  It was noticeable to me, and I think Russ always notices, the subtle goodness that comes from a moment of rest, shared together.
If selfies required titles I think I would title this one, “thankful for a pause.”

If you made it this far, good job, it has not been an easy read perhaps.  I have one more thing to share, a set of pictures which is just for fun really, but at the same time it is kind’ve interesting.  There are 8 pictures of total porch chaos as the crew gets ready to head out for Saturday afternoon.  At this point clothes soaked by rain had been almost dried in the dryer, rain had turned to sleet and the nastiest of the weather was approaching.  There were serious layers being pulled on, physical and mental preparations being made for what was ahead I do believe.  Four minutes pass during these 8 pictures while all that happens is people getting dressed and dogs getting excited. 

This is the picture that cracks me up the most….three layers of action, dogs in foreground, crew in the mid and Jill feeding a calf in the back.

Day 22 – Part 2- Calving Season 2022

We have been able to charge our phones enough that I am glad to do an update on this day.

What started off as so scary turned out really quite well. Our herd is doing okay, the shelter in the calving yard worked well enough that the incredibly gusty wind was not able to create the devastation it could of whenn combined with the snow. So….our work was not overwhelming. The sun came out this afternoon changing the day entirely. Our house is currently 73 degrees due to the power of the sun. We are not shivering, 26 hours into this power outage. The wind has finally settled. Jill persevered with emptying the sump hole until the generator got switched from watering the cows and horses to running sewer and septic pumps. We avoided basement disaster so far with that. Things feel ENTIRELY different at 8:30pm than they did at 5:30am. We are all so profoundly grateful. It kindv’e feels Iike a miracle.

Here are a few pictures from our day….

Laurie worked at Russell’s side all day. About 5pm I restoked the fire and got ready to make possibly 3 bottles for calves whose Mama’s had abandoned them or got disoriented or something. After these two were done their last round I needed to make no bottles! Not magic but persistence and cowboy bossiness.
What a different view from the porch of the cowboy cottage at days end.
This was the morning scene.
David got busy making us supper after helping in the morning. This felt like such a loving act. A pretty great generator at his place meant he and Linda had their extended family and us fed. This warm and DELICIOUS food was so needed. Wow!

Day 12 Part 2 of Calving Season 2022

We are all exhausted.  Wednesday was a big deal in so many ways and we have these colds that seem to get better and then get worse when we are stressed, its like they are playing a game with us.  Yesterday was the worst of the storm I have cause to believe and we made it through without losing a cow or a calf or power. That is a statement that comes with much gratitude.  You wonder how the cows can stand having their bodies caked with snow like that, but they do.  We had six calves born yesterday and they all survived.  That was helped in large part by the persistence of our hired man Ron who rose to the challenge of scouring the calving yard when Russ was busy with other calves.  The snow had accumulated to the point where a poor fence and the snow together meant cows went where they were not meant to, two of them snuck in and calved in a treed area which was tough for Russell to safely navigate should the Mama’s get mad.   In the end, calves were retrieved and brought back to the barn with their Mamas and no one got hurt. 

Other news flowing from yesterday was that Russell especially felt super supported by our broader circle.  There were many ways this happened, funny memes sent to him, earnest texts of concern and phone calls to check in and offer help.  Humor when mistakes were made, like Russell clicking on the wrong pictures when he was sending a message and sending pictures of ear lobes in my family to friends who earnestly tried to figure out what ear lobes had to do with ranching in a blizzard, (it was my Mom’s heavenly 85th birthday and various family members wore her jewellery and submitted pictures to the family chat in her honor.) That heart level support means so much to Russ.

The other big deal is that my cousin’s media connections meant that I was called by CBC radio and asked if I would speak on their lunch hour call in show.  I said sure.  One thing led to another.  They asked for videos and by the end of the day besides being on the noon show Morgan was featured on the CBC Saskatchewan web page, I was on the national radio news and the national TV news by night time.  This was distracting, fun, flattering and startling.  As Russ and I were snuggled in last night I was decompressing, asking, “how many thousands of people saw my face today?  Weird, on a day when you are expecting total isolation!”

I have many captioned pictures and some video to share. Its maybe going to feel like a lot. Sorry. I just couldn’t leave things out, because of course to me, they are my people and the animals I respect so much for so many reasons. (To see the videos click on the arrow in the centre of the preview picture.)

Russ called me to come help get him backed up to the corral and into position to safely unload cows and calves he was bringing home from the pasture. These calves were mostly a few days old but their Moms were not using shelter like they could and the calves were suffering. In this moment my job was to make sure the cows didn’t turn back on Russ and get aggressive for messing with their babies. They didn’t.
Russ and Ron got the cows and calves moved through the first pen while I closed the gate. Morg had been taking one of the calves to the house for me to work on. He caught up here.
They were getting the group moved up and into this shelter, the calves took some urging.
Safely inside.
10:34am – these guys are a great crew.
I am taller than Russ but here was standing on snow that elevated the difference.
On my way back to the house from the corral job my phone rang. It was a Regina number. I answered. It was CBC radio, wondering if they could talk with me during their noon call in show. I agreed, and as we chatted and more background info was being shared I was on speakerphone taking off my layers and dealing with what was going on in the house which was Coffee dog thinking she should lick off the calf Morgan had just deposited for me to deal with. So I’m talking to this important CBC person and saying “excuse me I just need to deal with something, “Coffee stop licking, heel Coffee!” Russ and I had already decided that we didn’t want dog scent on the calves for fear that the Moms would reject them. Unfortunately that made it into the news broadcast nationally, but in the wrong context, we are not generally worried about Mom’s rejecting after a brief period of separation.
This girl was wet and dirty and needed a good dose of TLC.
CBC asked me to send in video coverage of what we were seeing. This is one video I sent them, it has been seen by thousands on the CBC page and I feel a bit bad that it is misleading. It was not that white out. Somehow the camera, on normal setting, really amplified the effect of the white of the snow. It was bad visibility no doubt, but not this bad.
The scene at lunch. Men dealing with various issues of recharge.
This video comes with a language warning. Russ and I both swear. It features our cow Mo and her baby. If you don’t see the arrow to click just double click anywhere on the picture.
Morgan asked if we could call this calf “Scott” in honor of our premier who is Scott Moe, Morgan is a Scott Moe fan and Scott is now the official name of this calf. The cow is named Mo after a friend of mine from Up With People. We worked closely together in my year on the road. Mo went on to become a Jewish Rabbi in New York City and I am a United Church minister. Having the cows named like this helps our sense of connection to the world near and far from us.
This is Frankie and her calf. Frankie calved in the blizzard while wee were having our lunch. She got her calf licked off and up and sucking on her own and needed no further help except this shelter in our barn. We are super impressed with Frankie.
Loyal dogs.
Russ brought the horses home from the pasture for a rest and a better place to get warm then the back of the trailer.
Much respect for these veterans of blizzard life.
My niece asked me to video a little bit about Jill checking the heifers. I am glad to share a little bit about heifer life and Jill on the job with them.
They broke out and into the storage part of the shed. How weird to see our summer stuff as their hang out zone in a blizzard. They are longing for summer too!
Jill with the heifers at their feed. Earlier in the afternoon she had done alot of baking for us. With fear of a power outage we were glad to have muffins, squares and ginger cookies tucked away. Ron loves ginger cookies, I asked Jill to make them for him, he is going above and beyond.
This is our heifer named “Flour”. All of this years bred heifers’ are named after kitchen words. This heifer looks caked in flour. This picture highlights what is the worst part of this storm and that is suffering. I don’t think she is suffering too hard, she chose to be out there for a while, but all the animals, people and especially the newborn calves that simply have to persist amid what is harsh and at times life threateningly dangerous is just hard to think about or experience alongside. When we can pull our heads away from our own worries we sure find ourselves talking about our friends and neighbors in the same boat we are in. Suffering happens in many ways.
This is the back part of our working area in the pole shed. That must have been some mighty odd wind to sweep snow this far into the building. It instantly made me think of Narnia.
A little comedy at the end of the day.

This is the address for the news clip I was featured on last night. I don’t know how to make it into a link. However if you want to view it paste and copy it into a browser and you will see it…..I think.

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2022834243706/

Now that is it and that is enough!